We arrive at the clinic in Cheras. Located in a busy neighbourhood, we wait patiently as he attends to his patients. There are large packets of rice and other groceries which we safely assume are for donations.
We get called in and for a moment I get that pang of fear – doctors. Then it all disappears when we saw the ‘teddy bear doctor’. On the walls of his office are cute, little thank you notes from his patients.
37-year-old Madhusudhan Shanmugam is your no ordinary doctor. Last year he was awarded with the Commonwealth Points of Light award, bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II for his outstanding voluntary services. When we congratulate him, he brushes it aside stating it was mere luck. He was also featured in RHB’s Deepavali commercial last year. We also discovered something funny about Dr Madhu, he gets very video shy – he kept on cracking up during the videotaping session.
Growing up helping others
“When I was a student, my friends and I used to visit orphanages and old folks home a lot. We didn’t have much money on hand so we would entertain them and put a smile on their faces. Even during college, we would visit homes and buy them gifts.”
Genie Foundation, Kechara Soup Kitchen and Teddy Mobile Clinic
Given his affection for philanthropy, Dr Madhu kick-started his passion projects – mainly the Genie Foundation and Teddy Mobile Clinic. “After knowing that helping people is my true passion, I co-founded the Genie foundation, granting wishes to children from orphanages. I also hopped to Kechara Soup Kitchen later on,” he says.
Then Dr Madhu came up with another idea to help people. He operates a mobile clinic. “We operate our mobile clinic on Wednesday nights while Kechara Soup Kitchen alternates on Saturday nights so that the patients can be seen twice a week,” he explains.
“We also visit the orang asli villages. We have collaborated with Centro Mall in Klang, what we do is that they fund the medications and we take care of three homes that go in rotation, one week the orphanage, next week to the old folks home and the following the OKU home. We make it point to be with them all the time – we don’t want them to think it’s a one thing time thing, “he notes.
His schedule is clearly packed. How does this man do it all? Clearly it takes a certain amount of passion and love. On the weekends if required, he helps out with medical care or at refugee schools.
He points out to the bed beside him “that’s where I sleep. I go back to Klang to be with my family during the weekends.”
“I come from an Indian family, dad is a doctor so the son has to be a doctor!” he quips. He was brought up in his dad’s clinic. The family home was on the first floor and the clinic was on the ground floor. When the nurses were not around, he would help out at the clinic.
“My dad was often involved in a lot of charity work. I used to see my dad not charging the patients who could not afford treatment.”
Hidden talent: Chef Madhusudhan
If not on the road with a white coat and stethoscope, what would you be doing?
“I would have been a cook! I love cooking. On the weekends, I’ll make sure my mom’s not cooking and I’ll take over the kitchen. Usually if my friends are having a small function, they will call me to cook,” he smiles.
Chef Madhu’s special? His mutton varuval and sambal udang kering.
Work hard, play hard
During our interview, we then realised that Dr Madhu’s computer emits colourful lights, and we just had to ask. He reveals that it’s a gaming PC.
“When I can’t sleep at night, I play PUBG. Or I’ll do some entertaining tik tok videos to pass the time,” he grins. Dr Madhusudhan shows off his impersonation skills, and sense of humour, as the famous Tamil comedian and actor, Vadivelu. In these videos, he goes into full acting mode, wearing bandages, scarves, and sometimes bath towels.
Teddy Bear Doctor
“People used to have the idea that the nick name teddy bear doctor was due to my size. However, it is actually because I give teddy bears to kids. I love kids and making them smile. Thar was one of the reason I love visiting orphanages. People soon came to know of this, so they would donate a ton of teddy bears,” he eyes light up.
“We had a whole car full of teddy bears so whenever we would see a kid, we would pass them a teddy bear. Even my room has a lot of teddy bears!” Dr Madhu laughs.
“There are a lot of good memories. One particular family we used to help was an OKU couple. They treated us like family. The husband has sadly passed away but we still make it a point to visit the wife and she’s very close. Every morning she sends us good morning messages.”
No doubt in his line of work, there are bound to be heart-breaking tales. Dr Madhu tells us that the reason his patients become homeless is because their family has chased them away due to their illness. One of his patients who is almost in his 70’s had a habit of bedwetting the bed, and the family scolded him and chased him out of the house. Another woeful tale is an uncle who ran away from home because he was suffering from cancer and did not want his kids to suffer because of him.
“We tried to counsel him but he didn’t want to be a burden to his family. He knew that his son was only making enough to support his own family so he felt better off being on the streets. One of our abuse cases, the reason he became a drug addict was because his parents were drug addicts and abused him as a child. He then ran away at the age of 14 and has been living on the streets ever since. There a lot of reasons why they are homeless, you just need to talk to them, “he explains.
If you think everyone would embrace Dr Madhu’s efforts with open arms and smiles, sadly no. He explained to us that there was a minority who did not like what his volunteers and him were doing, stating that we were spoiling the homeless.
“We even get messages saying that we are doing this for fame. Initially when we started, we used to wonder how people could come to such thoughts but now we just have one focus in mind. That is doing something that is beneficial to others.”
A man with a dream
What does Dr Madhu see for himself in the near future? That question got him smiling.
“We will be opening a restaurant, well more of a food truck in two more months! We are currently in midst of
preparation. Three of us will be doing this venture together. Due to the nature of my work, I will be
there only on weekends. Weekdays will be run by my friends.”
Will the recipes all come from you and will it include mutton varuval?
“Yes, recipes are Chef Madhu’s!”
“On the Teddy Mobile clinic side, we are planning to have free transportation to different areas. The hospitals are indeed providing good treatment but many are unable to afford to go to the hospital. Some of them are on wheelchairs, some require to go to the hospital three times a week for treatment and it incurs a high cost on them. Recently my volunteers gathered and bought me a van. We were thinking of hiring a homeless person to do the driving.” — The Health